Lebanon’s Sunni sect wants Saad Hariri to be prime minister, businessman Samir Khatib said on Sunday after meeting Lebanon's top Sunni cleric, spelling the end of his own candidacy for the position and prolonging the country's political crisis.
Hariri quit on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the corruption and mismanagement of Lebanon's ruling elite. The protests have continued since then and Lebanon is in dire need of a new government to start tackling an economic crisis.
The prime minister's post is reserved for a Sunni in Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. Hariri said last week he backed Khatib as consensus appeared to emerge among Lebanon's main parties on him being designated in formal consultations led by President Michel Aoun.
But Khatib, speaking after a meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian at Dar al-Fatwa, said the mufti backed Hariri. "I learnt ... that as a result of meetings and consultations and contacts with the sons of the (Sunni) Islamic sect, agreement was reached on nominating Saad Hariri to form the coming government," Khatib said.
Khatib later headed to Hariri's Beirut residence, the Center House.
“I apologize with a good conscience from completing the journey to which I have been nominated,” he said following talks with the caretaker PM.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister if he could lead a government of specialist ministers which he believes would be best placed to deal with the crisis and attract foreign aid.
But his demand was rejected by groups including Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement that has been founded by Aoun. Both say the government must include politicians.
The binding parliamentary consultations to name a new PM were due to be held Monday but were postponed until Dec. 16, further complicating the task of forming a new cabinet.